Riverfront Park is about to defrost.

Salem on Ice has almost completed its first season, which hangs up its skates on Sunday, Jan. 21.

Co-owner Tony Acor, of Keizer, said that while the rink will not earn a profit this year, it was a success and plans are already underway for next year.

"We don’t have exact numbers yet, but I would assume we will hit around 40,000 skaters and probably somewhere in the neighborhood of about 25,000 spectators," said Acor, who partnered with Californians Daniel Chase and Jerome and Andrea Murray.

Acor and Chase said it has exceeded their expectations — they were hoping for 30,000 skaters — and they are happy with the turnout they have had this season.

What they have learned

Much like anything in its first year, the first season of Salem on Ice was a learning opportunity for the owners.

"Everything leading up to doing it was assumption," Acor said. "We think we can do it, we think we can get a crowd. Now we know, we have data of every single day.”

Aside from 90-minute skate sessions, Salem on Ice was home to special events throughout the season like princess parties with Elsa and Anna from Disney's "Frozen" and a New Year's Eve Party.

Acor said they will use the attendance and sales data to determine if those events were popular, and whether to do more or less next year.

Salem On Ice, a seasonal ice rink, at Riverfront Park in Salem on Thursday, Nov. 16, 2017.
Salem On Ice, a seasonal ice rink, at Riverfront Park in Salem on Thursday, Nov. 16, 2017.

Acor said even though they wished they had a few more months to prepare for opening, there were no significant setbacks. Only a few minor issues needed to be overcome.

They plan to talk with the city about installing drains at the site next year as they battled water getting into the rink when it rained.

"We are definitely going to figure out a way to have better control of that next year," he said. "And we had a dry year. If we had a heavy rain season, we would have been fighting it every day.”

Scheduling was another issue.

Acor said they changed the schedule twice.

Times changed week to week based on when students were out of school. Days when students were in school were the slowest.

"It would be nice if we had the same time every day, but there is no reason to open at 10 on a Monday morning," Acor said.

In addition, people came based on hours listed on Google, which were incorrect.

"It is hard when you have one week one thing and the next a different one, it even got confusing for us to keep straight," he said.

They plan on trying to make a more user-friendly calendar with all events and time frames next year.

The future

Rental skates at Salem On Ice, a seasonal ice rink, at Riverfront Park in Salem on Thursday, Nov. 16, 2017.
Rental skates at Salem On Ice, a seasonal ice rink, at Riverfront Park in Salem on Thursday, Nov. 16, 2017.

As laid out in the agreement with the city, Salemites could lace up their skates for four additional seasons, pending a follow-up meeting with the city.

Jennifer Kellar, the parks and recreation services manager for the City of Salem, said there is a provision in the contract that either party can opt out if they wish with notification.

"From what I have heard, there is no intent on part of the city to not allow them to come back if they want to," she said.

The meeting will also discuss how the owners feel the rink did, any issues and a plan for future seasons. That meeting date has not been set.

Looking forward, Acor and Chase said they plan to keep the prices, days and times roughly the same.

As for what might change, the business partners are looking at hosting local bands on the weekends and partnering with schools to bring students during the week.

Community impact

As for the site, sand was laid as a base for the ice rink to create a more sturdy and flat surface as well as a protection for the turf below.

The city plans to spread the sand out, reseed if necessary and raise irrigation heads once the rink is off, Kellar said. There is not a set date for when the park will return to normal.

One hope for the ice rink was that it would help draw people downtown during a typically quiet period.

Ashley Ward, a supervisor at Cascade Baking Company, said while they didn't see a noticeable change in traffic, they did see more families in the store.

Bringing the ice rink to Riverfront Park was a great idea because there is nothing to do in the park during winter, according to Marie Bradford-Blevins, executive director of Salem's Riverfront Carousel. She said she has not heard a single negative comment about it.

"We had a fabulous month of December, the best since I have been here," she said. "I am sure the ice rink had something to do with that."

Acor said they have received countless thank you's for bringing a rink back and the majority of feedback has been positive.

"There is a guy that has a season pass here, and he used to skate in high school at the one in the '40s," he said, "He told me, 'If you were cool you were at the ice rink.' Here it is all these years later."

If you go

What: Last chance to skate at Salem on Ice until next season.

When: through Sunday, Jan. 21

Where: Riverfront Park, Salem

Cost: $15, $12 for ages 3 to 12 for a 90-minute skating session, including skate rental.

Reach out to Abby Luschei at aluschei@statesmanjournal.com or call 503-399-6747 regarding all things entertainment. Follow her on Twitter @abbyluschei or like her Facebook page www.facebook.com/luscheiabby.